One hundred years after his birth, and more than a half-century after his shocking death, John Fitzgerald Kennedy remains a subject of endless fascination for millions of Americans. The youngest president ever elected, Kennedy’s 1,037 day administration was marked by great hope as well as great tension. How he reached the White House is a story of both privilege and determination. The second-born son of a rich and influential father, Kennedy’s rise to power may be seen as inevitable, but his ascension was hard fought as he persevered through severe health problems and religious discrimination.
On March 25, the Oregon Historical Society will unveil an original 6,000 square foot exhibition on the life of this iconic president entitled High Hopes: The Journey of John F. Kennedy, on view through November 12. While much of his life has been overshadowed by his assassination at a young age, Kennedy’s achievements during his presidency were significant and are still affecting history today.
This exhibition explores Kennedy’s early life, his road to the presidency, and the changes he effected during his time in office. With the high hopes of the country behind him, John F. Kennedy made a commitment to changing the world for the better, and in his legacy he continues to live on. This exhibition, the largest centennial exhibit outside of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston, features more than 150 rare artifacts and manuscripts from the Mark Family Collection, the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and the Oregon Historical Society collection. A bold, unique design draws visitors through the life of this enigmatic figure and mixes state of the art interactive elements with iconic moving image footage. Exhibition highlights include:
Suffering from a debilitating back injury after his service in World War II, John F. Kennedy found relief from sitting in a high-backed rocking chair. He ordered several of this style,
the North Carolina Rocker, from P and P Chairs for the White House, Air Force One, and his homes in Palm Beach and Hyannis Port and gave additional versions to friends. The chair was upholstered by Lawrence Arata, who Jackie Kennedy recruited to help with restoration of the White House. Kennedy gave this particular chair to Averell Harriman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Courtesy of the Mark Family Collection
This brown and tan checked wool suit was designed by Carolina Herrera, a Venezuelan- born designer who created many ensembles for Jackie. Jackie’s personal secretary, Mary Gallagher, was given many of Jackie’s items of clothing, including this suit. During her life, Jackie Kennedy became known for her impeccable sense of style and is now seen as a modern style icon. Courtesy of the Mark Family Collection
This news camera filmed the transfer of accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and Oswald’s murder by Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963. Courtesy of the Mark Family Collection
John and Jacqueline Kennedy refurbished the White House during their residency with period paintings, fabrics, and furniture. The president’s oval office included two sofas, a rocker, and this low, American Empire style coffee table. It has bold carving in high relief, scroll feet, a heavy pedestal base, and handsome, matching veneers for its top. World leaders, military officers, and politicians gathered around this table for conversations with the president. Courtesy of the Mark Family Collection
In order to keep himself occupied after back surgery, John F. Kennedy took up painting as a hobby and painted this watercolor of the Kennedy home in Palm Beach, Florida in 1955. He had given the painting to the Tubridy family, some Irish friends, and was reminded of the gift years later when Aine Tubridy sent him a photo of the painting. Courtesy of the Shapell Manuscript Collection
The Oregon Historical Society’s museum is open seven days a week, Monday – Saturday from 10am – 5pm and Sunday from 12pm – 5pm. Admission is $11, and discounts are available for students, seniors, and youth. Admission is free for OHS members and Multnomah County residents every day.